No, Domestic Abuse Does Not Increase By 38% When England Lose The World Cup

No, Domestic Abuse Does Not Increase By 38% When England Lose The World Cup

It doesn’t rise by 26% when they win either. In short, the outcome of the game has very little impact on whether or not domestic abuse is happening across the UK. Because it is happening. It is happening in every single community, World Cup or no World Cup.  But the vast majority of people it is happening to never call the police, for lots of reasons. So whilst the World Cup might see an increase of reports, primarily of physical violence to the police, this is very different to an increase in domestic abuse.

Domestic abuse is not a one off incident that is reported to the Police. And critically, domestic abuse is not just physical violence. It is an ongoing pattern of controlling and coercive behaviour. It’s being cut off from friends and family, being told you are worthless, ugly and good for nothing and it is doing exactly as he says because you are scared of what might happen if you don’t.

Domestic abuse is treading on eggshells because you don’t know whether you’ve done something wrong – or broken one of his many unspoken and made up rules – but the truth is you can’t do anything right. Because it’s not about you or your actions, but him and his power. It’s about the power he has and uses over you and the power society gives him.

To be very clear: someone who is capable of/likely to physically assault their partner during or after a football game is capable of/likely to physically assault their partner at any time.

And for as long as we blame football, alcohol, faith, poverty or drugs for domestic abuse, we’re not holding anything or anyone to account in any meaningful way. The one to blame, the person responsible for abusing their power and their partner is the perpetrator, and all eyes should be on them.

When the team hangs up their strip and flies home from Russia there’s no risk of local domestic abuse services closing down because of a lack of demand.

In fact, research shows that the demand for specialist services is greater than ever, with over 50% of Women’s Aid groups in Scotland experiencing a greater demand for their services and an additional 45% reporting that demand remains consistently high with previous years.

No, when the World Cup is over, domestic abuse will continue.

That is why as the tournament kicks off we have one ask: support your team but go a step further – find your local Women’s Aid group and show them your support all year round.

At Scotland’s Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline we won’t put pressure on you, or tell you what to do. We know it isn’t always easy to pick up the phone. When you call the helpline, your call will be answered by fully trained call handlers who have lots of experience supporting people affected by domestic abuse and forced marriage.

You don’t need to know what to say, just know that we believe you, and we are here for you.

Call: 0800 027 1234 | Email: helpline@sdafmh.org.uk | Website: www.sdafmh.org.uk

An Open Letter To My Abusive Ex And Father Of My Child

An Open Letter To My Abusive Ex And Father Of My Child

Northern Irish writer Beau Marshall has written a painfully honest open letter to her ex and the father of her child. We are incredibly grateful to her that she has given us permission to share it here in full. Please read with care. (stock image © Laura Dodsworth)

You pretended to be my friend.

You literally took a wrecking ball to my life. When I look back, I realise you knew exactly what you were doing. You pretended to be my friend to lure me into a false sense of security. When I was at a point in my life that all I could see was darkness you gave me a fake glimmer of light. You were my shoulder to cry on. I trusted you with my deepest secret and you used it to abuse me.

When I look back I see you so differently. And I see myself so differently too. I was in pain. I hated myself and you pretended to love me. In a short period of time I felt like I would never cope without you. You made me believe this too.

Instead of helping me through my dark time you used it to chip away at me. In every single way. You made me feel ugly inside and out. You told me I was useless. You told me I was stupid. You told me nobody else would ever want me. You made me believe this.

Somebody that loves you will build you up, not knock you down.

I lost who I was. I was your version of me. The version you needed me to be so you could control and manipulate me.

I got so ill I couldn’t see a way forward. I had nowhere to turn and you knew how much I was hurting. You then pretended to be surprised, pretended to be unaware of my pain and again fooled me into thinking it was all my fault and that you were the good guy who was my rock. You just added this experience to the list of things you would use against me and abuse me with.

At times I wished you would lift your fist to me. I used to think bruises on the flesh would heal faster than the wounds you put on my heart and soul. But none of it would ever be acceptable.

I tried to get away from you. I did things to try and make sure we could never get back together. But you always got to me and I always ended up back there. Time after time.

Nobody could understand how I kept getting back with you. How could they possibly understand, they didn’t understand the extent of the damage you had done. My spirit was broken.

You had this way of always making me believe what you said. When you called me names and made me feel worthless I listened to it. I believed all of it. When you’d later say sorry for the things you did I listened to that too. I was so caught up in the cycle of abuse I couldn’t see reality anymore.

I stopped telling my friends and family anything that went on. I was too ashamed. I had no idea what was normal anymore.

Then I found out I was expecting a baby with you. I was overcome with emotions. I’d always wanted to be a mother. I believed you when you told me it would all be OK. If it had been up to you I wouldn’t be OK now.

The birth of our son gave me the ability to find a strength that was buried deep down inside me. I had to change for him and for me. And he had to have his best chance. I never wanted to be a single mother but it was for the best. You lost your power over me the day I became a mother but it didn’t stop you trying to control me. You tried many different angles. Verbal, emotional, financial abuse and even blackmail. Our son quickly became a pawn in your sick games.

Even when you had moved on and met the girl you would marry you still spent time and energy trying to destroy me.

The only thing you destroyed was the relationship with your son. He should have idolised you but he feared you. At 6 years old he could see you for the bully you are. I never bad mouthed you. In fact I made excuse after excuse for you hoping out little boy would hurt less.

You broke my spirit but worst of all you hurt our innocent child. I hope the child you’ve gone on to have since never experiences the pain I’ve seen your ability to cause.

I stayed single for years, not because nobody wanted me as you liked me to believe but because I was cleaning up your mess. I was being Mum and Dad, I was trying to heal myself from your years of abuse and I was working really hard to provide a beautiful life for our son. Everything he has is down to me. Your last bit of control you thought you had over me was financial and to be brutally honest you’re welcome to keep your money. We do great without your help.

And now that I’ve met someone that I may find the time and the faith to have some feelings for I continue to battle the demons you left me with. I’ve healed as much as I can. I’ve worked hard to heal. And still there are some days I have to remind myself that he is not you and it’s OK to let love in…

At Scotland’s Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline we won’t put pressure on you, or tell you what to do. We know it isn’t always easy to pick up the phone. When you call the helpline, your call will be answered by fully trained call handlers who have lots of experience supporting people affected by domestic abuse and forced marriage.

You don’t need to know what to say, just know that we believe you, and we are here for you.

Call: 0800 027 1234 | Email: helpline@sdafmh.org.uk | Website: www.sdafmh.org.uk

 

What Does Abortion Have To Do With Domestic Abuse, Anyway?

What Does Abortion Have To Do With Domestic Abuse, Anyway?

Never in the history of ever have rights been dished out on a plate to groups facing discrimination. Not once has someone with heaps of power entirely of their own volition thought: hey my privilege is spilling over a bit, you want some?

As we celebrate the suffrage movement and 100 years since some women won the right to vote, we have to remember that the fight for women’s rights and freedom is far from over. We also have to be mindful that the right thing isn’t always easy – in fact more often than not it’s damn hard – but when the chips are down where do you stand, and who do you stand with?

We stand with the women of Northern Ireland, just as we stand with those in Ireland, Poland and anywhere that women are denied their reproductive rights.

We stand with those forced to travel alone, tired and scared to a country that is not their home to access basic healthcare, and we stand with those finding illegal pills online and taking them in secret. We stand with those forced to carry, birth and raise a child against their will because despite it being 2018 their Government still does not trust them enough to honour their human rights and afford them basic control over their own bodies.

Our bodies, our choices is a longstanding mantra of the feminist movement and of those fighting for women’s access to free, safe and legal abortion, because that’s what this comes down to. Choice. If you don’t like abortion then fine, don’t have one. But no-one, no-one has the right to make that decision for anyone else.

You might ask what does this have to do with domestic abuse?

The answer is everything. Because for as long as abusive men have been coercing and controlling the lives and minds of their victims they have also been controlling their bodies. Women experiencing domestic abuse are routinely pressured to become pregnant, abusive men will sabotage birth-control, use condoms inconsistently and issue threats related to continuing or ending a pregnancy. It doesn’t stop there. Rape in the context of domestic abuse sees women who have experienced significant trauma impregnated, isolated and trapped.

There is no best case scenario that can undo such trauma, but the very, very least any woman in this situation should know is that if she can to get to her doctor, alone, seeking an abortion that the doctor’s response will be trauma-informed and person-centred and that the doctor will offer access to a free, safe and legal termination and all the support needed. That our Northern Irish sisters who want to end a pregnancy in situations not dissimilar to this instead face a prison sentence is unthinkable, and yet it is so.

In Scotland our situation is far from perfect, and we will continue to use all our collective might to remove abortion law from the criminal justice system and put the issue firmly where it belongs as a matter of health.

But we will also stand with and fight for those whose rights are being routinely and seriously violated elsewhere and we ask that you join us.

Tweet your MP and ask that they attend Westminster tonight to stand up for the rights of Northern Irish women.

Exciting News! What Being Charity of the Year Finalists Means To Us ❤

Exciting News! What Being Charity of the Year Finalists Means To Us ❤

We’re absolutely thrilled to be finalists for SCVO’s Charity of the Year! For us this is a celebration not just of our work now, but that of the workers, volunteers, survivors and supporters across the Women’s Aid network in Scotland for more than 40 years.

It has been an extraordinary year for us at Scottish Women’s Aid. As we celebrated the rich history of Women’s Aid in Scotland through our Heritage Project, the fruits of 40 years of activism, work and determination were realised as Scotland’s pioneering Domestic Abuse Bill became an Act.

Though we are clear that there is much, much more to do, that Scotland has a world-leading new law that is rooted in and reflective of women, children and young people’s lived experience of domestic abuse is a triumph of Women’s Aid in Scotland.

But our work neither stopped nor started with the passage of the Bill; behind the scenes our staff have been busy as ever influencing policy, developing projects and pioneering initiatives so that women, children and young people can live free from fear and domestic abuse.

In partnership with the Children’s Commissioner our work on Power Up / Power Down – a participation project focused on court-ordered contact for children in the context of domestic abuse – has gone from strength to strength. Drawing on their lived experience to advocate for change, the children and young people became effective children’s rights champions, delivering their calls for change directly to the First Minister and other powerful influencers.

This past year also saw the launch of one thousand words our exciting project in partnership with Zero Tolerance which changed media representations of domestic abuse. Alongside survivors and photographer Laura Dodsworth, we created a whole new set of images for the media to illustrate domestic abuse, moving away from narrow stereotypes of women with bruised faces to reflect the emotional, sexual, financial and coercive elements of abuse. For victim-survivors to recognize their experience and seek support they must see themselves represented and to see the images being used so widely by Scottish media is incredible.

In our national office we’ve coordinated a first-of-its-kind domestic-abuse competent employability project, and it’s fair to say that women involved in Building Equality have thrived. Through the project and with the support of local women’s aid workers, participants who previously experienced multiple barriers to financial independence have gone on to set up their own business, been accepted to college and entered the labour market.

This is just a snippet of the work we do, which is almost always varied, challenging, exciting and at times difficult. It’s hard at times to reflect on success when we live in the knowledge that women, children and young people across Scotland right now are trapped and living in fear, but it is right that we celebrate the milestones and the thousands of women who have worked so hard to transform Scotland.

For this reason we are so excited to have been shortlisted as finalists for Charity of the Year, and in even more good news you can also vote for us in the People’s Choice award! It is tough competition, but an honour to be nominated and regardless of the result we are proud to be celebrating the efforts of all those women who have brought us this far.

 

We still have a very long way to go, but this is the closest we’ve ever been.

Guest Blog: Stalking, Technology & Domestic Abuse

Guest Blog: Stalking, Technology & Domestic Abuse

Photo copyright: Laura Dodsworth

There’s a reason the addresses of refuges are kept secret. By now it’s no shock to us abusive men will try to trace, follow, intimidate and harass partners and ex-partners, even to the very location that women and their children (if any) are trying to escape to. Far from being a suited stranger observing from a dark alleyway, the majority of cases of stalking are perpetrated by a partner or ex-partner. That is why Women’s Aid workers and other services who support women are well versed in creating safety plans and managing risk. It’s also why in partnership with media coop the Scottish Women’s Rights Centre is piloting an innovative mobile app for services to use to support victim-survivors to record their experience – more on FollowItApp soon.

Stalking – like most crimes – happens on a sliding scale of severity, but all abuse is serious. In many ways our culture gives permission for this behaviour, because ‘he just can’t take no for an answer’. This idea has become normalised – romanticised even – as typical masculine behaviour and an excuse for men to pursue women who have already said ‘no’, rather than evidence of entitlement and potentially abuse.

Stalking is a by-product of gender inequality, a society that gives men agency and power and denies it to women. It makes up one part of the epidemic of violence against women across the world, and like most crimes of violence against women, it often goes underreported.

The Scottish Women’s Rights Centre exists to fill the gap between women’s experiences of violence and abuse and their access to justice; a big part of what we do is supporting women to navigate legal systems and institutions to pursue justice. There’s no denying that Scots law is complicated and while there are lots of reasons why victim-survivors of stalking don’t report their experience to the police, something we’ve  found at the Scottish Women’s Rights Centre is that this is because it just isn’t always recognised as criminal behaviour. On top of that there are practical challenges to recording an experience that can be incredibly intense and diverse.

In Scotland stalking is prosecuted as a course of conduct – this means an incident that takes place two or more times – that places another person in a state of fear or alarm. That means that non-criminal acts, for example sending a text message that says ‘why haven’t you left the house all weekend?’, become criminal and can therefore be reported when they happen twice or more and when they cause the victim to feel afraid. The above text could easily make someone feel afraid, because it’s meant to let them know that they are being watched.

Stalkers use a wide range of behaviours and tactics to make their victim afraid. This can include unwanted calls, texts, emails or messages and comments on social media. It can mean turning up unexpectedly, following, loitering and giving verbal abuse, with some stalkers installing monitoring software on their victims’ phones or laptops to track their every move. It can even include leaving unwanted gifts or cards in places where they shouldn’t be, behaviours designed to make sure the victim is aware and scared, but feeling powerless to do anything about it. It can be all of these things at once. To the outside world, a bunch of flowers on your desk means nothing, it could even be interpreted as a nice gesture, but in the context of stalking and domestic abuse, it’s quite the opposite and it can be overwhelming.

This is one of the reasons why we (in partnership with media coop) have created FollowItApp, something we hope will provide a digital solution to an age old problem. We want to make it as easy as possible for women to be able to record and evidence their experience through a creative log with options for pictures, screenshots, videos and notes. Those who use it might have no intention of ever reporting their experience of stalking to the police, or they might change their mind and choose to report five years later. We won’t tell women what to do with the information, we’ll just help store it in a way that is quick, convenient and safe. If a victim-survivor ever chooses to report their experience, having this information stored (for 15 years) could come in useful.

Being stalked is traumatic and it is terrifying; it’s virtually impossible to feel safe when you think that someone is watching your every move. Nobody expects to be stalked, or to have to report it to the police. It should never come to that, but unfortunately far too often it does. Recording incidents and their impact through FollowItApp is a helpful protective measure that means that if any behaviour does escalate, or if the victim-survivor changes their mind and chooses to pursue justice, then information is reliably saved and the course of conduct and its impact are much easier to demonstrate.

FollowItApp is currently in its pilot stage. If you are receiving support from or work at a local women’s aid or rape crisis centre and want to get involved in a project that will change the landscape for victim-survivors in Scotland get in touch: coordinator@scottishwomensrightscentre.org.uk

Guest Blog: What journalists need to know about the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill

Guest Blog: What journalists need to know about the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill

Tomorrow Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) will gather to debate Stage 3 of the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill. This Bill has the potential to positively transform the way we respond to survivors and to challenge outdated attitudes regarding domestic abuse. For the first time in Scotland, the legal understanding of domestic abuse will expand beyond the narrow definition of abuse as one incident of violence to an understanding that recognises ongoing patterns of abuse. Our laws will criminalise the insidious and coercive methods that abusers use to control their victims and therefore more accurately reflect the lived experiences of survivors.

The Domestic Abuse Bill’s contents and future prosecutions will receive a high level of media coverage. Stories and headlines will reach survivors, perpetrators, children, adults who grew up with domestic abuse, professionals and communities. This is a huge opportunity for media outlets to produce news, features, comment and headlines which are accurate, sensitive and in the public interest. This is why Zero Tolerance has produced: ‘What Journalists Need to Know About the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill’. Written with the help of Scottish Women’s Aid and ASSIST, this resource sets out a clear set of guidelines to help journalists, writers, bloggers and anyone hoping to report on this bill feel confident to do so accurately and sensitively.

The briefing reflects the fact that the media we consume plays a large part in shaping our attitudes.

Too often we see distorted coverage of domestic abuse; stories which suggest that abuse is a by-product of a messy and difficult relationship of equals rather than an expression of power and control by one person over another.

Apart from being inaccurate, this type of reporting could encourage a woman who is living with an abusive partner to stay for fear of not being taken seriously.

In 2017, Zero Tolerance undertook a media monitoring project, reading eight national newspapers every day, for one week. We found that a total of 134 stories on violence against women appeared, averaging 2.4 stories per newspaper per day. Out of these 134 articles, only 7 contained some form of statistical evidence with 4 newspapers using no contextual data at all.  Despite 55 stories discussing the relationship between spouses – the most common type of relationship examined – only 2 articles characterised the reported violence as domestic abuse. The problem with this approach is that it contributes to the myth that abuse is an inevitable tragedy that occurs in a vacuum. Within Scotland, there were 58,810 domestic abuse incidents reported to the police in 2016-17. Where the gender of the victim was recorded, women made up the majority (79%) of the victims in these incidents. Violence against women is a huge and complex problem that is caused by gender inequality. But without providing this broader context, it is too easily presented as an inexplicable tragedy with no solution, rather than a systemic feature of an unequal society that we have the power to challenge.

The responsibility to report on violence against women accurately and sensitively goes beyond coverage of the Domestic Abuse Bill. In partnership with Scottish Women’s Aid, and in consultation with survivors of abuse, we have produced a set of stock images for news outlets to use, these images more realistically depict women’s lived experiences of abuse and avoid harmful stereotypes. You can download these here.

Our Handle With Care guide lays out clearly how to report on violence against women with sensitivity and accuracy. You can download it here. 

Guest blog written by Lydia House of Zero Tolerance.

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